Can a defense attorney use police misconduct as a means to exclude evidence?
In a recent story out of New Jersey, two Bloomfield Police Department officers were caught falsifying evidence, lying under oath, and mischaracterizing the entire set of facts surrounding a June 2012 traffic stop. At the time of the stop, officers swore under oath that the suspect in question had resisted arrest and assaulted officers, prompting them to forcefully remove the suspect from the vehicle and restrain him in an aggressive manner.
However, as prosecutors and investigators reviewed dash cam footage – which was obtained via an open records request – it quickly became apparent that the incident did not actually occur as officers had described, and that misconduct had actually occurred on the part of law enforcement.
In contrast to the details recounted by Bloomfield PD officers, Sean Courter and Orlando Trinidad, the suspect had in fact surrendered to policy, shouting “I did nothing wrong,” and holding his hands up as both officers forcibly removed him from the vehicle. Nonetheless, the suspect was charged with eluding, resisting arrest, aggravated assault and attempting to disarm a police officer. All of these charges were later dropped.
As any good criminal defense attorney will attest, there are always two sides to every story. Here, the keen senses of the suspect’s defense attorney led to a review of the dash cam footage – which painted a starkly different picture than what was originally set forth in the suspect’s indictment.
Some cases, however, are not as clear-cut as this and will require a more inquisitive approach to the review of evidence. In the context of a vehicle stop, for example, police must have a cognizable reason to stop a vehicle; they are not permitted to haphazardly pull cars over left and right without reasonable suspicion that a crime is afoot. If the police cannot articulate a valid reason to have pulled over the vehicle and suspect in question, any evidence seized as a result of the stop could be suppressed – which could ultimately lead to a dismissal of the charges.
If you are facing charges, you should consult with a competent criminal defense attorney to discuss your options.